James leads Heat past Thunder


Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY — LeBron James sat silently in front of his locker with a towel draped over his head, not wanting to reveal the effects of a hit to his nose that prematurely ended his night.

His Miami Heat teammates finished off a 103-81 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder without him on Thursday night.

Miami’s star forward went down with 5:50 remaining after he was struck by Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka on a drive to the basket. James finished the dunk, but he was bloodied and he left the court with a towel over his face.

“I’m like everybody else, you’re used to seeing him like Superman, get up and sprint back even after tough hits and tough falls,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “So we knew something was up.”

James landed the hardest blow long before that. He scored 16 of his 33 points in the first quarter to put the Thunder in a bind, and the Heat rolled to a lopsided win.

James passed a concussion test, but some damage was done.

“He has a swollen nose right now. It’s bleeding,” Spoelstra said. “We’ll evaluate him when we get back to Miami, but it’s sore.”

The Thunder were the ones shaken up after James made his first five shots and scored 12 points in the first 4:11.

“It was flawless,” Wade said. “He was aggressive defensively, he was able to play passing lanes and be who he is. That was a great start on the road by our leader. It was something that we needed.”

Wade had 24 points and 10 assists, and Chris Bosh added 24 points for Miami, which won its fourth straight and avenged an earlier loss to Oklahoma City. It was a good step for the Heat, who are trying to catch Indiana for the top record in the Eastern Conference.

“You can see the resolve,” Wade said. “You can see the chemistry. You can see a team that’s gearing up for the second half of the season.”

Kevin Durant scored 28 points for Oklahoma City, which lost at home for the first time since Jan. 5.

Durant has been the popular favorite to win the NBA MVP award, but Wade said James is still in the hunt.

“It’s not decided,” Wade said. “I don’t think that was a message. That was LeBron James being LeBron James. He loves the matchup, just like KD loves the matchup. The MVP is long, long from over.”

Russell Westbrook, who had missed the previous 27 games after having surgery on his right knee, started and scored 16 points in 24 minutes. He made 4 of 12 shots.

The Thunder overcame an early 18-point deficit on Jan. 29 to roll past the Heat 112-95 in Miami, and the home fans hoped for a regular-season sweep against the team that beat Oklahoma City in the 2012 finals.

“When you don’t have good rhythm, normally the three-ball can get you back into the game,” Brooks said. “We didn’t have shot makers tonight.”

“We’ve had them for a while now. We didn’t have them tonight.”

The crowd erupted as Westbrook was introduced as a starter. His first minute of action was furious and had the fans on their feet. His first basket was a two-handed, fast-break dunk 37 seconds into the game, and he got a steal 17 seconds later.

The excitement quickly evaporated. James scored 10 points in the first 3:11 and Miami made 13 of its first 14 shots to take a 28-13 lead. The Heat were ahead 34-17 at the end of the first quarter.

They extended their lead to 19 points in the second quarter before the Thunder rallied behind Westbrook. He scored nine points in the final 1:55 of the first half, including a dunk in the closing seconds, to trim Miami’s lead to 54-47 at the break.

Miami took control early in the third quarter. James scored six points during a 10-0 run that helped the Heat take a 64-49 lead. The advantage grew to 75-53 on a 3-pointer by James with just over five minutes left in the frame.

Durant scored seven points in the final 2:46 of the quarter to trim Miami’s edge to 76-65 heading into the fourth.

Miami reasserted itself in the opening minutes of the final period. Bosh hit a 3-pointer to bump the Heat’s lead to 19 with just under 10 minutes to go.

The Heat won for the fifth time during their six-game road trip. Miami beat the Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix, Golden State and Dallas before closing with a win against the team with the league’s best record.

“It’s good to finish it this way,” Spoelstra said.

NUGGETS 101, BUCKS 90

MILWAUKEE — Kenneth Faried continued his recent hot streak, scoring 26 points to carry Denver past Milwaukee.

Wilson Chandler scored 15 while J.J. Hickson added 14 points and 10 rebounds in a matchup of two teams left short-handed by deals they made before Thursday afternoon’s trade deadline.

Faried, the No. 22 overall pick in the 2011 draft, has been impressive this February. Coming off a 21-point, 10-rebound performance against Phoenix, the forward also scored a career-high 28 against the Los Angeles Clippers earlier this month.

Caron Butler scored 17 for the Bucks, who have not won two straight games all season. Ersan Ilyasova had 14 points and 11 rebounds.

WARRIORS 102, Rockets 99, OT

OAKLAND, Calif. — Stephen Curry made a tying layup with 3.2 seconds left in regulation and finished with 25 points, and the Golden State Warriors outlasted the Rockets 102-99 in overtime to halt Houston’s eight-game winning streak.

Just after James Harden hit a go-ahead jumper, Curry came back with a left-handed layup over Dwight Howard to send the game to the extra session. The Warriors got a big boost in overtime when Jermaine O’Neal, who was filling in for injured center Andrew Bogut, blocked Chandler Parsons’ baseline dunk attempt at the rim.

Curry followed with two free throws to give Golden State a 98-95 lead with 15.9 seconds left. The teams traded free throws as the Rockets ran out of time.

Harden scored 34 of his 39 points in the second half and OT.

 

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